Surface, symbol and deception

Who is at fault in a hoax? Do we lie the blame at the feet of those who conducted the hoax or those that believed it? It is an intriguing prospect to consider when we relate art, an audience and its capacity to effect reality. For every actor is in the business of successfully playing the role of someone else. Deceiving you into believing they are that character in such a convincing way that you buy into what they do and what happens to them as part of a story. We go and watch films at the cinema, see shows on our TV. It is an understood and complicit lie. This is not currently happening, these are not exactly those people they’re playing.. It is a constructive narrative for you to get lost in and enjoy. The unspoken contract of agreement of saying I want to be involved in this lie so I can enjoy the story. It is interesting in meditating on that the way war of the worlds by HG Wells has brought chaos to people. Through the medium of Orson Welles’ adaptation we have seen 3 times where this radio play has caused pandemonium from its airing. How the characters, and the story, the way it was portrayed in the specific medium has blurred the reality and the story in a way that has caused mass hysteria. Indeed there was Orson Welles’ original telling of it, and then that served as a model for an Ecuadorian retelling of it, followed by another in Buffalo in the USA. All leading to chaos, jammed switch boards, people fleeing their houses in search of an escape from the martians. The second one in Ecuador actually led to a riot once the people knew it was a radio play, as the height of their hysteria turned into an embarrassed and angry mob. What does it mean as one of those producers or actors to do your job so well, to be so convincing in what you do that people take fiction for reality? Is it pride at your prowess or guilt at the sense of deception by people believing not in you as a character, but in the story? How life like the whole thing was pieced together, and does a producer see their role as an instigator of hysteria, the architect of a hoax, the master of artistic disguise? I wish I knew. It is very strange as a writer to not work in the medium of dividing that line. Manuscripts and scripts have the paper trail of fiction, the conventions of  reading, imagining, masked by stage directions effects, characters name before dialogue etc. It is all counter productive to being anywhere close enough for deception in such a tightrope walking way. The thrill of being so good you effect reality so much that people buy into what you do and you see the fall out and behaviour of belief. The desire to not just lie in a convincing way that is complicit with people, but to lie in a way that is complicit but becomes so believable and relevant that the complicit deception gets lost and all that is being received is truth. I wonder what the actor in war of the worlds who had to be the interrupting broadcaster who brought you breaking news, just how much him honing his craft in mimicking the radio news anchor in style, rhythm, cadence, seriousness, speech pattern and tone so much for people to believe martians were invading. What did he think when he went home and heard about the fallout of panic? Was it guilt at the deception? Was it a smug triumph in earning his money, justifying his casting by being outstandingly convincing? Makes you think about that line. The line when deception is deception and when it is beautifully crafted, worked out, produced and performed that it inevitably ends up deceiving people that it transcends and scuttles in the mind over the barrier of fiction to fact. How does that translate to life? Isn’t that the ultimate objective of an artist? To have your work so integrally have people letting go of fiction and fact and took things by belief. There is always context of course, and the construction to help take away or add to this possibility. But it never the less brings you two the fact that in essence art is deception, and the best art deceives in a way that influences one way or another. As Oscar Wilde says,  ‘All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.’

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